VA Creating New Data Product To Help Bridge Care Gaps

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As part of the agency’s Equity Plan, officials will use more accurate demographic data to understand gaps in access to VA benefits.

Advanced data collection and analysis plays a critical role in the Department of Veterans Affairs Equity Plan, an initiative to help reduce barriers to care for historically marginalized and underserved veteran groups.

Announced last week, the VA said that developing more sophisticated demographic data on veterans is part of the agency’s larger ambition to reduce disparities in health care services among its qualifying members. 

Some of the group's officials seek more representative data on women, LGBTQ+ service members and veterans of color. 

“The department’s mission is to ensure equity and access for all those who served their country in uniform and the Equity Action Plan is a natural extension of that mission,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “We have efforts underway to change policies, processes and procedures, as well as identify infrastructure and data enhancements to enable access to all Veterans, including underserved Veterans.”

The agency is planning on synchronizing data on veteran health care, disability benefits and other VA services to measure the impact on minority veteran populations. The Equity Plan calls for a new and accessible data product using this demographic data and informatics that will help measure gaps in care.

The product will have enterprise-sharing capabilities and focus on cross-analyses of veteran demographics, including race, ethnicity, gender and location, as well as their access to health, benefits, customer experience and other factors. 

Improving data collection will provide a more accurate snapshot into current Veteran needs, something officials noted has been lacking in relation to updating VA services and care. 

The VA will also be reviewing veteran access to pension programs. 

“VA has identified the lack of complete and consistent collection of socio-demographic data is essential to assess equity in the benefits and services we provide to Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” the plan reads. “The VA does not have this data and this barrier to equitable outcomes impedes VA’s ability to provide continuous evaluation of where potential disparities exist.”

While part of the Equity Plan, the VA is looking to make more diverse socio-demographic data more integral to its business operations. The agency’s Office of Resolution Management Diversity and Inclusion contracted a federally-funded research and development corporation that called for a more permanent Data for Equity strategy.

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